Why are bathrooms inclusive if the stacks exclude? Systemic exclusion of trans and gender nonconforming persons in post-Trump academic librarianship

Travis L. Wagner, Archie Crowley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to deploy a critical discourse analysis (CDA) to consider exclusionary practices enacted by academic libraries as evidenced through resource provision. Specifically, this paper looks at the inclusion of trans and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) individuals in library guides, TGNC naming practices in abstracts and the physical shelving of transgender studies texts. This paper concludes with a discussion of methods to overcome such exclusionary practices in the future. Design/methodology/approach: This paper deploys CDA as informed by queer theory, affording a lens to consider how language and information are structured such that particular power dynamics emerge placing symbolic value on discursively normal identities. CDA helps illuminate when, how and why TGNC individuals remain excluded within academic librarianship practices. Findings: Findings show continued investments in heteronormative and cisnormative structures concerning information provision and access for TGNC patrons. TGNC patrons using library guides consistently fail to see any mentioned made of their respective identities aside from research about their identities. Patrons seeking information of personal value (i.e. coming out resources) find few resources. Further, library stacks and databases enact consistent microaggressions such as fetishizing, deadnaming and misgendering. Research limitations/implications: This project contains considerable social implications, as it pushes against a continued recalcitrance on the part of academic libraries to invest in neutrality by showing its failures regarding TGNC persons. Practical implications: This study possesses a considerable set of practical implications and highlights tangible problems that could be addressed with relative ease by academic librarians through either systemic reorganization of information or TGNC patrons. Alternatively, this work also suggests that if such reformations are not possible, academic librarians can take it upon themselves to call attention to such issues and purposefully mark these failings, thus making it clear that it is a current limitation of how libraries function and invite patrons (both cisgender and transgender) to challenge and change these representations through research and advocacy. Social implications: This project contains considerable social implications as it pushes against a continued recalcitrance on the part of academic libraries (and librarianship more broadly) to invest in neutrality. This study contests the idea that while possessing neutrality academic libraries also posit themselves as inherently good and inclusive. By showing the violence that remains enacted upon transgender and gender nonconforming folks through multiple venues within the academic library, this study makes clear that statements of negativity are thrust onto TGNC patrons and they remain excluded from an institution that purports to have their well-being as one of its core values. Originality/value: The deployment of CDA within information science is still a relatively new one. While linguists have long understood the multiplicity of discourse beyond language, the application of this method to the academic library as a discursive institution proves generative. Furthermore, the relationship between academic libraries and their LGBTQ+ populations is both underrepresented and undervalued, a problem exacerbated when focusing on how transgender and gender nonconforming patrons see themselves and their relationships to the academic library. This paper shows the dire state of representation for these particular patrons and provides groundwork for positively changing such representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-181
Number of pages23
JournalReference Services Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 21 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic libraries
  • Critical discourse analysis
  • Gender nonconforming individuals
  • Information organization
  • Linguistics
  • Queer theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Why are bathrooms inclusive if the stacks exclude? Systemic exclusion of trans and gender nonconforming persons in post-Trump academic librarianship'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this